Swoop adds Victoria, reinforcing Westjet focus on British Columbia


Swoop announces British Columbia expansion, cementing parent company’s summer focus on Canada’s West Coast

Swoop Victoria
A Swoop Boeing 737-800NG taxis at Abbotsford International Airport in January 2019 (Brett Ballah).

You get the sense Westjet’s market research is telling them Canadians really want to travel to British Columbia in the coming summer months. Just days after adding 10 new mainline and regional routes into B.C., Westjet subsidiary Swoop said Wednesday it will add Victoria service from Edmonton and Toronto.

Swoop already announced plans to add Victoria for 2020, but the pandemic scuttled those plans. The airline also announced new service between Kelowna and Hamilton, and the return of Winnipeg-Kelowna. It will also boost frequencies from Abbotsford to Edmonton, Toronto, Hamilton, and Winnipeg, and between Kelowna and Toronto. It all adds up to a badly needed boost for an airline that was down to one route at points during the pandemic.

The airline called Wednesday’s announcement the first of many.

“Our summer schedule expansion is in response to strong advance sales and in anticipation of demand from Canada’s most price-conscious travellers as they look towards the accelerated pace of vaccine rollouts across the country,” said Swoop President Charles Duncan. “We are thrilled to be offering Canadians even more opportunities to connect with British Columbia’s vibrant West Coast and Okanagan region this summer.” 


Kickstarting domestic tourism

Canada’s borders remain closed to most non-citizens. And those flying into the country face significant hurdles to enter the country, including a two-week quarantine. For those reasons, most observers expect domestic tourism to pick up first. Announced plans by Canada’s airlines respond to that trend.

“Tourism was among the hardest hit sectors of the economy in 2020 as a result of physical distancing measures to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Statistics Canada reported Wednesday. The agency said tourism spending in Canada by Canadians declined 39% in 2020. At the same time, tourism spending by foreigners dropped 83%; most of that came in January and February, 2020. The number of jobs fell 29%.

The result is that domestic travellers now represents 93% of all tourism dollars spent in the country. That includes a 19% surge in domestic air transport spending in the lead-up to Christmas.

Tourism operators are banking on serving a pent-up demand. And B.C.’s mountains seem to be alluring.

“It goes without saying we are located on an island,” said Paul Nursey, the CEO of Destination Greater Victoria. “Reliable transportation to and from the destination is vital to the success of our visitor economy. There are other benefits to a low-cost carrier like Swoop entering market as well. It means Greater Victoria becomes an option for visitors that might not have considered air travel without ultra-low cost carrier options.”

Safe journey, end to end

Airports are doing everything they can to assure passengers of a safe journey, from end to end. Edmonton International announced a new plan to test front-line workers Wednesday. The airport is starting an eight-week trial to test employees who interact with the public. That includes food workers and airline employees who deal directly with passengers.

The Alberta government is paying for up to 4,000 rapid tests for front-line workers who volunteer. The airport, which currently handles between 900 and 1,200 passengers a day, calls it an additional layer of safety.

“EIA is demonstrating its leadership in the fight against COVID-19 by introducing new, efficient safety tools,” said Dr. Jim Chung, Air Canada’s Chief Medical Officer. “The opportunity for our employees to participate in the screening pilot adds another tool in our multi-layered approach to employee safety,”

Edmonton’s testing joins an employee pilot testing project at Toronto International. Unlike a pilot project in Regina, however, the tests are not open to travellers or the general public.

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